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Social Media: What Parents Must Know

Checking In

Spot-check your child's account and see what she's up to: what she's posting, who her friends are, and who she's following.

Figuring out how to do that can be touchy. When your child is 13, you can insist on having her password, says Edgington. However, an older teen might see that as an invasion of her privacy. Still, you are the parent.

If you're Facebook "friends" with your child, you can keep tabs on what's going on, but check with her to see if it's OK before friending her (and promise never to post on her page). Be aware that this can give you a false sense of security, since most teens are pretty savvy about blocking parents from seeing what they don't want them to see.

Some teens who know their parents are checking on them set up an alternate account. If you don't see much activity or many friends on her page, that might be the case. Set up a Google alert with your child's name so that if anything about her hits the Internet, you know about it immediately, Edgington says.

"You're the best judge of your kid," Knorr says. "If you think you have a kid who engages in risky behavior and can't be trusted, you'll have to police her online activities more closely."

Prevent Overuse

Social media can take up a lot of time and energy.

If your child starts to stress about  how many times her photos or posts are liked or retweeted, it's time to step in. "You want to raise a kid who feels she has internal self-worth" beyond that, Knorr says.

There are times when texting and checking Facebook is just not appropriate, such as during family dinners, catching up with relatives in person, at or after bedtime, and during class. Of course, texting or being online while driving is totally off limits, for safety's sake.

Watch your own behavior, too. "Start with your own usage as a parent," Knorr says. "Say, ‘I'm putting the phone away at dinner time because that's how we do it in our family. When we meet someone we have to make eye contact.' It's important for kids to learn how to socialize properly and be in the world without the stimulation of the online environment."

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Reviewed on December 19, 2012

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